Longer Orange 30 SLA Printer Assembly & Initial Impressions

I received my Orange 30 in a well-packed box via DHL. My box did not contain a manual, which I think might be an indication that it was among the first few hundred printers shipped. (It did, however, have a USB with what would apparently have been the printed manual, so no real harm.)

The assembly went okay. The first step is the assembly of the cover, which I did wrong the first time. The key is to realize that each of the panels not only has a top and bottom (obvious enough) but a front and back: only by aligning them properly do the slots and tabs line up to make a sealed box. The use of two rubber bands (supplied in the box, along with a backup) is a little wonky, but in the end I don’t think it’s a big deal.

Otherwise, the assembly was quite easy. There were quite a few knick-knacks and extras in the box, like playing cards (for scraping wet resin) and two pairs of nitrile gloves (which were too small for my decidedly-average-sized hands and tore).

You get a support! And you get a support! Everyone gets a support!

This is my first SLA printer, but I do have an FDM printer (a Tevo Tornado) and so I decided that my first print would be Benchy, that standby of filament calibration. I imported the STL into Orange’s software and went through the easy-enough steps of checking the model, generating supports, and slicing it.

To be fair, I do not understand how supports work in SLA. The default level of supports generates tons of supports. (See image.) Because I wanted my first print to just be a test and not particularly stressful, I kept the suggested supports. Is that a good idea? What are the odds of Benchy being printed by an SLA printer with no supports (as is the typical stress-test for filament machines)?

The software defaults to a different Longer model, but I luckily caught that and switched it to the Longer 30 before saving the file to the USB drive.

While loading the file I noticed that the touchscreen was pretty non-responsive. It worked, but I often had to touch several times. I have a bad feeling about it's longevity.

Leveling the print surface was extremely easy compared to on my filament printer: just lower the build plate onto a piece of paper and lock down the screws. Very easy and it seemed to have worked well enough.

Fume acceptance factor

I began printing about an hour after beginning assembly of the printer. I had set up the printer in a workshop space under our living area. After 1/2-hour of printing, my wife called down from upstairs and declared that the fumes / smell were unacceptable.

She's pretty sensitive, but I mean, sensitive or not she was 30 feet away and bam! Give the fumes serious consideration. Luckily, I have a garage and after canceling the current print, scraping off a dozen layers or so (very easy), and gingerly moving the printer (including tank of resin) into the garage, I got started again. The fumes are still evident even with the cover on. I think I’ll probably start wearing a respirator when printing with this device. Perhaps that’s overly cautious, but my point is that this isn’t a magical cure for resin fumes.

Noise is often a big issue with filament printers, but that is definitely not a concern with this printer. It’s very quiet. It has a small fan but otherwise the only noise is the faint sound of the Z-axis screw moving.

My total print time was 4 or 4 1/2 hours. It was very exciting to see the print slowly emerging from the goo.

Goo cleanup

So now came the really intimidating part: detaching the model and cleaning up the print and printer. I can see that this is going to be a learning curve. At the end of the printing process you have to:

  • Remove the print plate from the printer and clean it of any excess resin, scraping the resin such that if falls back into the reservoir. But the print plate is just about the same size as the tank, so keeping it centered, while also avoiding the gantry, is difficult. I dripped some onto the edge of the tank and top of the printer.

  • Clean excess resin off the print. Ideally, I guess this would be into an alcohol bath, but I didn’t have any containers that were both big enough for the print and small enough that I could stand spoiling that much denatured alcohol. So instead I spritzed the model with alcohol.

  • Getting the model off the build plate was easy compared to getting a filament print off a glass surface. I used the scraper provided in the Orange 30 box and got the print off in a matter of a few seconds. After I did that, I cleaned the build plate with alcohol.

  • Finally, the real drama: I had dramatically overfilled the reservoir and wanted to reuse the resin. The box contains two 3M filter-funnels (it’s not clear to me that they’re reusable, so I expect I’ll be ordering more of those right away). While not quite a total disaster, I spilled a few CCs of resin down the side of the bottle and onto my worktable. I see myself figuring out some kind of stand for holding the filter and resin bottle in place while decanting from the reservoir but, until then, I will definitely enlist someone to help me with this part of the process.

Denatured alcohol seems to do a great job breaking down the viscosity of the resin and cleanup wasn’t hard but the nature of the printer is that there will be drips and spills. I was extremely glad to be wearing (my own) protective gloves and really see managing the resin as the biggest challenge to using this printer.

Print quality

How’d the print come out? Well… okay. I was not sure whether to remove the supports before the print cured or after, but I figured that it would be easier before, so I did that. They were easy to snip with a pair of cutoff snips I have for soldering, but the result left a stippling of “pimples” on the hull of the boat. The details are excellent: you can’t see it in the photos, but the stern of Benchy has writing on it and it is crisp as anything in the SLA print. Likewise, the “boards” that make up the top of the cabin are really nice.

I forgot that SLA prints solid and my Benchy weighs in at 22grams. Plus, I would guess, another few grams from supports and spillage.

I revisited the software afterwards to see if I could control the supports and solidity. Not really. You can adjust the total number of supports (expressed as a percentage of the default number), the width of the pillars, and the radius (diameter?) of the attachment ‘pimple’ but not, AFAICT, eliminate individual supports. Also, I could not find a way to hollow out the model. Does this mean that I have more Meshmixer in my future? Who knows?